As The Shortstop Position Turns.
It was a revolving door at Fenway Park under former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, and it looks as though that may be the case again under Ben Cherington, who last night traded veteran Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies for 26-year-old righthander Clayton Mortensen, who will be thrown into the starting rotation competition.
“Marco, last year, played very well, especially the last couple of months of the season, and I know Ben felt the same way,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine. “We can take the money and improve our team in other ways.’’
According to a Sox source, the Rockies picked up all of Scutaro’s $6 million salary for 2012, which could give Boston room to spend on pitching - perhaps for someone such as free agent righthander Roy Oswalt, whose price has dropped to the $8 million range for one year.
The Sox also could be trying to stay in the mix for Cubs righthander Matt Garza, who likely will earn in the $10 million-$11 million range if he settles on a midway point in arbitration before his hearing.
At shortstop, the Sox will start with a platoon of Mike Aviles and Nick Punto, two guys who are gritty but aren’t blessed with great range.
Aviles spent most of his winter league playing in right field.
Cherington said the new-found money “gives us flexibility to consider other things, but we’re in no rush. We feel the combination of Punto and Aviles can approximate Scutaro’s production.’’
The Sox do not feel that 22-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias is quite ready to make the major league team. But Iglesias’s arrival could be accelerated if the Aviles/Punto combo doesn’t do the job defensively.
Valentine, who was in New York for its Baseball Writers of America dinner, said, “We feel like we have enough coverage at shortstop. Mike Aviles is an interesting player, and the young man is going to get his chance. Obviously, Iglesias can really play defense and I’m looking forward to seeing him.
“We think we’re going to be OK at that position.’’
Mortensen, a sinkerball pitcher, was a first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2007 who was traded in the Matt Holliday deal to Oakland.
In 51 1/3 innings with the Rockies last year, he was 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. At Triple A Colorado Springs, he went 2-8 with a 9.42 ERA.
A National League scout said of Mortensen, “Our reports were pretty good on him. A guy who could enter the back end of the rotation mix or eat up innings in the middle of the bullpen.’’
At the end of the season, Scutaro said he preferred to play second base, since he considers it his best position, and that’s where he’s expected to play for the Rockies. He originally came up as a utilityman with the Mets when Valentine was the manager there.
While never a pure shortstop, Scutaro got by defensively, and he is a hard-nosed player willing to play hurt. He played through a shoulder injury in 2010 that made it difficult for him to make strong throws from the hole.
Scutaro, 36, had one of his best offensive seasons in 2011, hitting .299 with 7 homers and 54 RBIs with a .781 OPS in 395 at-bats. He likely will hit second in the Rockies lineup.
In other news, the Sox avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms with righthander Daniel Bard on a one-year, nonguaranteed contract for $1,612,500.
Bard, 26, set a team record and tied for the American League lead with 34 holds last season while posting a 3.33 ERA and a 2-9 record.
Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Bailey, and David Ortiz are Boston’s remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible players.